Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Work-Around, Not a Permanent Solution!!

There are lots of talks going on among Iraqi bloggers in the past few days about the situation in Iraq, especially after major events took place simultaneously, which for some gave the indication that the situation is running out of hand, and that civil war is inevitable – if it is not already has broken out. This comes mainly after dozens of stormed armed men in uniform entered a government building in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people in midday. That followed the killing of around 200 innocents in Baghdad by a chain of cars exploded, also in the middle of the day, and finally, the warrant issued to arrest Harith Al Dhari, the leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. In the meantime the kidnapping and killing of innocent civilian is to the highest level around the clock. The question is whether the arguments and discussions among Iraqi bloggers reflected the real split within the Iraqis about their own problems (and I am not excluding myself), or did it show that Iraqis can argue, discuss and maybe disagree but the big picture never intended to show conflicting ideas that can be related to what the media is telling: Iraqis are killing their fellow Iraqis!

I will start with Neurotic Iraqi Wife: in her latest blog she was expressing her fears and frustration from the situation. She is against anything might lead to the US withdrawing from Iraq because in her opinion this will definitely will result in more chaos and bloodshed in Iraq. Her version of the solution for Iraq included: the deployment of more troops to Iraq, overthrow the government, the US put a new government for Iraq, and arresting Al Sadr, Al Dhari and many others who are considered as a threat to the stability of the Iraq. In short, NIW’s solution for Iraq can only be achieved by the US might! I explained to NIW that the US is not doing anything at the moment, so staying or leaving will not make any difference, if not make things worse! The US is just watching Iraq falling apart, and Iraqis falling down one after the other without moving towards restoring law and order. People in Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities are helpless, afraid for themselves and for their beloved families – and angry, even among Iraqi bloggers! Miraj asked the ultimate question of all: what will happen to us? It is a very heart breaking moment when a sister or a friend or a relative ask you from thousands of kilometers away to pray for her safety and to wish that this tragedy end with no more loses. I am full of sorrow because for years and years Iraqis have been trapped in the cross fire when someone else decided to wage a war and it happens to be Iraq the chosen zone for these wars.
Miraj, as one, expressed her fears that these events mark the end of everything. A similar fear has been expressed on Kid’s latest blog. He is emphasizing that the warrant issued against al Dhari last week will open the gates of hell by saying that “al-Dhari give his enemies the opportunity they've been dying to get a few days back on al-Arabiya television, he called the Anbar Rescue Council, the recently formed force fending off al-Qaeda in volatile Anbaar governorate a formation of 'weak tribes and bandits', he also said that al-Qaeda is 'a form of resistance, but we do not agree on them killing innocents'.

With all fears, there is a call for love, peace and a reminder message from Marshmalloow26 that we Iraqis used to live together, grew up together and she begged all Iraqis to “..stop this bloodbath, and take the DOVE as an Example of peace so God will be satisfied with your behaviors and open all doors for you”.

One of my fellow bloggers, Salam, put a very interesting theory. Salam did cross the Iraqi border with his analysis regarding finding a solution for Iraq. He included the Middle East as a whole, which in a sense I find it close to reality, with some objections. However, there are who disagreed with Salam: One of the comments on Salam's latest entry argues that the solution is purely in the hands of the Iraqis and with that both the militias and the occupation will be out in a month, and I am quoting some of his/her thoughts:

"Let all Iraqis sit down ~ and refuse to lift a finger until The Occupation Army leaves. The ones perpetrating terror will be clearly UNMISTAKABLE ~ they will be the Iraqis who are standing. You would find your Death Squads AND get rid of the Occupation within a month.
Do you think al-Maliki will make the announcement to the population on television soon?? Of course not; no one follows the logic of pure logic; so it won't be done. That means I am much like you: I wrote a WISH rather than a Probable Outcome

The Iraqis won't be able to move because of many reasons, and one of them is that anyone raise his hand in objection to what is happening will be killed. So Internal-Iraqi solution is far from reachable. Neither a strong Iraqi control on Iraq's affairs, nor the current trap the US has put itself in will help improving the situation for the US administration. For that reason the White House is waiting for a bunch of former diplomats and semi-retired politicians to come up with a solution i.e. Baker report.

The new move is similar to what Salam mentioned. At the moment, the US is relaying on someone else (like Iraqis) to solve their problems: Talabani is in Iran and he is begging for support - I won't argue whether his visit was on behalf of the US or not! In the meantime, King Abdullah and after one day of his speech which warned of a three civil wars (the other in Lebanon and Palestine) he decided to be move, he received Al Dhari and there were hugs in the royal palace. The Saddam loyalists will have no role, especially after the sentence on their leader will executed. They will be gradually diminished from the playing-field.

Israel on the other hand, is having a truce with the Palestinian factions) and Olmert's speech announced a change in strategy regarding Israel stand towards the middle east, by talking about an independent Palestinian state, withdrawing from all occupied territories..etc Again, does this has something to do with the consequences from the war in Lebanon and the furious resistance Hezbollah showed, this can be argued about, especially with the question about what Israel did learn from last summer war!

To put everything into its perspective, we have Iran and Jordan playing a role on behalf of the US, each is trying to bring down the pressure from either side of both fighting factions (I won't use Sunni and Shiite rivals). In the meantime, the leak from the Baker report is proposing a partial withdraw from Iraq and leave from the 150 thousand troops, the half of it based in Iraq in the hope that this pressure can also be gradually diminished - this would also improve the picture of the US administration in the eyes of the public when they see that their beloved ones are back.

The result? Iraq and the Iraqis will be more reliable and increasingly influenced by foreign powers and the tactics for the region i.e. the public will have no respect for its government, because everyone knows that the loyalty of the politicians is not for Iraq and the Iraqis i.e. another Lebanon.

All the efforts from east to west during the past days and until this very moment is just a work-around for a problem facing one foreign power or the other, and not a permanent solution for Iraq, and not taking into the consideration the tragedies Iraqis are living through on daily basis.

No one form those non-Iraqi powers wants a:
Strong Iraq
United Iraqis
Iraq that can play a role in the ME

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Elections in the Netherlands: The Peak of Democracy

I am going to talk about a very important event in the Netherlands. Yesterday Dutch went to voting posts to elect new representatives for them in the parliament. The winner of 2003 elections, the right Christian Democrats (CDA) remained ahead, but lost majority of seats to the left Labour Party (PVdA) and Socialists Party (SP), who is now considered as the big winners. This means that the new government must deal with a new dilemma: a new political structure in a government never seen before in a democratic country. This is very difficult, and as some analysis said on the radio while I am on way to work “this has never happened before in the history of this country” and some in advance indicated that “the process of forming a government will be a lengthy one, and might lead to another elections in summer of 2007, at worst case”.

The question I asked myself is: What kind of message the common Dutch citizen tried to send?” There are a few ones: first message is a reward, the current prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrats) and his party will remain in power. In spite of all critics related to his policy in the past years (or even to his character) the voters decided to keep him in power, maybe because of his success in pulling the country out from the ground and making its economy flourish – The Netherlands now has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe. The second message is the main and most important one: The voters was very loud and clear by saying “we want more social Netherland” i.e. more towards the left, and as a result, the SP and the PvdA were the big winners!

Confusing, right?

Its worth mentioning that the socialist party is considered to be the party with the most extensive elections campaign compare it to all other political parties.

Some might say that this split could be a dangerous turning point for the political scene in the Netherlands. I disagree. The elections of 22 November 2006 did not bring split among Dutch in the sense of the word. The elections were not about how people show support for a specific party (or person) based on their expectation for the coming 4 years, on the contrary, it showed the voters were making a sort of a judgment on the conduct all politicians in the Netherlands made in the past 4 years, and this is how the concept of reward and punishment came about. It is like saying to the Christian Democrats “ you can stay in power, but change in attitude is needed” A similar call to the left, especially to the Labour Party, when voters decided to remain left, but give more votes to the Socialist party – maybe because of the trend the Labour Party shift to the centre that caused such a change in heart by the voters!! , and that was the third message - the public keep an eye on its government! The fourth message by the Dutch voter was a sort of a punishment to other politicians and their political parties, such as the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) and List Pim Fortuyn, both suffered the most.

However, the right did not lose all ground to the left, and there is a fifth message from the voters to everyone: The emergance of a new extreme right within the political scene. This extreme right rised on the account of the VVD and LPF, and this is based on the fear factor, mainly related to Islam. Problems such as radical Islam, integration of Muslims in Dutch community (and other related issues) gave a chance to approximately half a million voters to look for a strong figure that would provide safe-haven for them and might represents an iron first that can smash the cause of such problems. Thus, the big surprise in this election was the PvdV (Partij van de Vrijheid) or Freedom Party, by gaining 9 seats in the perliament. This party is known for its extreme stand (or shall I say hatred) towards muslims living in the Netherlands. The party is led by Geert Wilders, from the southern town of Venlo, who is well known for his repeating rants about “less Islam” or “we want to stop the islamization of the Netherlands” after every three of four sentences he say in every speech.

Another big surprise in these elections was the Party for Animals! This is the first time in history of Europe (or the whole world?) that such a party gains seats in a parliament.

The elections this year was different from previous ones, because there was less focus on Immigration and illegal people coming to Holland. This year, the discussion and political campaign was focusing more on the welfare of the common citizen. Actually, believing in norms and values (among other factors) were the strongest behind people going voting. This was an advantage for the Christian Union party to gain more votes in these elections, in my opinion. However, the Christian Union party were quick to understood all the messages from the voters, because the moment the results started to come out, this party announced their desire to become a “Social-Christian” party - A term which has never been used or heard before within the political playing-field! Believing in norms and values also helped the Green Party to fairly stabilize his position; no wining, no loss – in spite of the loss of one seat! It is a fact that a coalition cannot be formed of the left i.e. SP, PvdA and Green Party, because they don’t have the majority, but their collective influence will be noticed effectively.

The political storm in the Netherlands is far from over. We will witness a very interesting, and extremely critical – if not the most critical chapter in Dutch politics ever.

A smart politician will keep this extraordinary balance alive, but how? The ruling party, the CDA must make compromises to remain effective and to be able to gain more popularity, is Prime Minister Balkenende prepared to do so, especially with his socialists and labour party rivals? In addition, the VVD need to ajdust their policy in order to gain its stolen support back from Wilder’s Freedom Party, how? Especially that Wilders will play on the anti-Muslims string more than ever seeing that this already brought him more popularity and more votes. Geert Wilders will take any opportunity to raise his cause high, that’s for sure, and no one knows if he would succedd or not. One thing for sure that he won't rely on any of other politicians in the big parties. It was obvious from yesterday’s final debate after the announcement of the voting results, where the "big winners" sat together around one table discussing. It was obvious that Geert Wilders is not favored by most of most politicians sitting on the very same table. The left on the other hand will benefit from the results of the elections and some might think that playing hard by putting more pressure on the right will bring some political profit, but this is will result in great unstablity, and therefore more problems, not for the politicians, but to the common citizens, of all sorts.

What the Netherlands is going through for the last four or five years is a very complex experience. Everyone knows that things will never be the same as they were in the 70s, 80s or the early 90s. There are now many colors standing behind orange in 21st century Holland. These colors will either push the country forward towards prosperity and beter welfare, or pull it down to another economic and social dark hole.

Within all this complexity, what would be the role of the immigrant who lived here for years, who has been granted the Dutch nationality, and given the opportunity to vote? What are the initiatives any immigrant might take for the sake of the country he lives in? this is another topic I wanted to write about very long time ago, but I will one day, hopefully soon.

The final conclusion I can draw from this very difficult and interesting elections is that Dutch should be proud of their democracy, because democracy in the low lands is healthier than ever, healthier than in any other country on the planet.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Erase This Text and You will be Killed

The text in the photo reads:

"This house is of a Ba'thist. Not allowed to be sold or rent. Anyone erases this text will be killed"

This is madness! What is the difference now from the days when Saddam used to grab people out and confiscate their houses? If someone from those who used to live in this house did many things bad during Saddam's rule, it is still not fair to lable the house in such a way.

This will not bring justice to victims...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Delay in Awareness, Stubbornness and Slow Mindset Towards Realization

Stuck in the mud to the waist… This is an analyst’s comment I saw on Sky news channel evaluating the situation of the US involvement in Iraq. He resembled this situation with a song by Bruce Springsteen! Calls are getting louder in Britain, especially after four soldiers got killed and three very seriously injured when their boat hit by an improvised explosive in Shat Al Arab. This happened on the same day Brits are remembering their beloved once died in war. Debating Iraq became serious in Britain before that, though, however more politicians, human rights organizations and law maker are demanding Prime Minister Blair to settle everything once and for all.

On the other side of the Atlantic, after the defeat of the US Republican party in the mid-term elections last week, President Bush (according to his White House spokesman) decided to “be open to all options”! I don’t blame him especially that a look into the near future does not look that bright as before: Angry voices inside the US are coming from different directions; more losses among the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan where chances to hide the accurate number of casualties are becoming narrower and narrower; more hostility towards the “liberator” from Iraqis, even those who were happy that the US helped in toppling the rat of Tikrit; the Talaban is gaining some victories on ground, which makes past years effort, money, and sacrifices looks like gone in vain. For these and many other reasons critical (or shall I say fatal decisions) decisions must be made, started with removing one of the main pillars holding the Bush Administration together: by letting Donald Rumsfeld fall. It is like a sign of reconciliation with his Democratic opponents! However, it is not over for Rumsfeld because there are some believe that Rumsfeld should pay the price. Why should the blame completely be put on the president?

The smell of “still” burning Iraq has reached the White House, and for that reason, the president is reviewing impossible possibilities, such as sending indirect signals (through Tony Blair) to have talks with Syria and Iran in order to save his situation in Iraq.

The last I remember, Bush branded the government in Tehran as one of the three axes of evil, and replaced Iraq with Syria afterwards

Anyway, the president of the United States is seeking help from his enemy to clean up the mess he and his troops created in Iraq. However, taking how Bush’s personality into the consideration, especially his stubbornness, no two person would doubt that he would not say it publicly “need help to be pulled out of the Iraqi mud!”. Bush must remain tough because any softening will cause more damage to his administration than Iraq already did.

There are of course who oppose that approach strongly: the Iraqi Model is one. Their objection is not because of Iran’s (behind the curtain) involvement in Iraq, but more about how the US and the UK view of to Iran! In addition to the “working together with enemy to stabilize Iraq” proposal, there is of course the possibility of a full withdraw from the country. Some Democrats are demanding gradual and systematic withdraw within 4 to 6 months. I doubt it, especially that this will mean the fall of the US administration as a whole! There are more who demand the President of the United States to apologize. Keith Olbermann did that a couple of months ago, but he reiterated that during the mid-term elections when Jim Kerry made his comments about the US troops

Both proposals were written by a group of Democrats and Republicans, led by former secretary of state, James Baker. The result of the study would be submitted by the end of the year! But in the meantime those living in the White House will continue thinking and saying to each other something similar to a song by Clash:

….you gotta let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay, or should I go!!

With these amazingly speedy events, players in the “big middle east” game are moving: There is the quick player who want to understand what’s really going on and ensure that any strategy the at-the-moment-in-a-very-big-problem US government would take will not have an effect on its interests in the region. This is perfectly illustrated in the quick their actions towards their region’s events Is there a significance from such a move? Do they deserve credit? In fact, the Arabs do not deserve any compliment or credit, because the UK and US blockade on the Palestinians will be in either case lifted very soon when the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas comes out from behind closed doors with the name of the new “independent” Prime Minister, who eventually will take the next steps in forming the “national unity government”.

While all this is happening, supporters of each party are still getting at each other’s throats, and more are getting killed, buildings have been burned, and foreign journalists have been kidnapped from day to day!

What made the Arabs react now and not earlier? Why do they always late in taking actions or decisions that fate of millions depends on? Do they like to play it safe or what????? This is the second time in less than a year that a common reaction can be seen by the Arabs. If we look to last summer war in Lebanon, Arab governments did not move a bit towards dealing with a situation where a country was 24/7 under the bombardment, until Qana. The same thing happened with the Palestinians, nothing happened until Beit Hanoun. Both incidents involved the killing of children while they were sleeping. Both tragedies took place by Israelis, both have Qatar as the central player, and in both cases money was the main element for reconciliation!

In the meantime, back to Iraq, the killing, mutation of bodies, the discovery of unknown dead bodies, and the kidnapping is continuing under the sight and sound of a crippled Iraqi government!

A death machine just crashes everything and anything that might light a candle to see the path towards a better Iraq.